Spicy Sweet Nut and Seed Mix

Cold and grey weather in December makes me want to bake in the kitchen. I must have my mother’s DNA for sure, since some of my fondest memories are of her up to her elbows into a giant mixing bowl as she stirred together the various candied fruits and nuts for the fruit cake cookies and loaves she produced in mass quantities every Christmas.

This recipe also had a significant amount of cheap whiskey in it, so when I was preaching in small towns in Arkansas, I usually let one of the ladies of the church know of my need. “Don’t you worry,” they’d tell me, “we’ll make sure this gets covered.”

A few days later I’d be invited over to this kind lady’s home for lunch. She’d have a Christmas gift for me. Inside the colorful bag would be a small flagon, double wrapped in a brown paper bag. “You don’t have to tell anyone where you got it. That’s a secret, just between you and me.”

I’d nod and smile. Christmas has always been time for secrets. My parents would hide presents up in the attic until we got big enough to pull the rope for the hidden stairs. Then they hid the gifts in the trunk of my daddy’s black Pontiac. I never knew why we weren’t able to find the keys. When we were truly old, my folks managed to keep the Christmas secrets by gift wrapping the presents at the store before we came home from school.

One of the mysteries of Christmas I discovered along the way was Santa could write as elegantly as my daddy, but I never told anyone else. After all, I had two younger siblings and I wouldn’t want to spoil his visits for them! This recipe makes a Spicy Sweet Nut and Seed Mix for snacks. You can vary it infinitely and even use it as a base for a Chocolate Bark recipe. It’s great for a share party.

Fresh out of the oven!

Ingredients

4 cups unsalted, roasted whole nuts (almonds, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts)

1 cup seeds (I used pumpkin, quinoa, and sunflower)

1/4 cup agave

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

1 Tbs brandy

227 grams chocolate chips (1 cup)

1 teaspoon kosher salt (divided)

1 teaspoon turbinado sugar

Red pepper flakes from three chili peppers

Step 1

Heat the oven to 325 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the nuts and seeds.

Step 2

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine agave, butter, red-pepper flakes and ½ teaspoon salt. Microwave until the butter has melted, about 30-40 seconds. (Alternatively, you can melt the mixture in a small saucepan on the stove.)

Step 3

Pour the butter mix over the nuts and seeds, and stir until well coated. Dump onto the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer. You want the nut mix spread out as much as possible.

Step 4

Bake, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are tacky and look and smell toasted, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle over the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and all of the turbinado or dark brown sugar. Let cool on the baking sheet, then transfer to a bowl and serve (or transfer to an airtight container, where they’ll keep for up to 4 days).

Nutrition information for 1 serving (24 total servings)
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SHARK WEEK CHOCOLATE BARK

Shark Week always grabs my attention. After all, that’s what sharks do! Or maybe because it’s far too hot to be outside in Arkansas or because my inner child loves to learn new things. I always loved the beach as a child, since the sea breezes kept the heat tolerable. Inland, folks just suffered in the sweltering humidity pods. Thankfully we now have modern air conditioning, an invention that didn’t come to my home until I was a teenager.

When the temperature was 99F at 10 PM, even a ceiling fan wouldn’t make sleeping comfortable. Cooking was out of the question. Daddy would barbecue or we’d eat cold cuts and fruit. Chocolate candy bark didn’t take long to heat on the stove, so it was a treat to make in the cooler mornings. It also reminds me of coral reefs, which Shark Week shows us nightly on the Discovery Channel.

Corals come in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some resemble deer antlers, trees, giant fans, brains, and honeycomb. Although many corals may look like plants, they’re actually animals; they’re most closely related to jellyfish and anemones. There are three different types of coral reef formations—barrier reefs, coral atolls, and fringing reefs. Barrier reefs help to protect lagoons and other types of shallow water; coral atolls (which are often mistaken for islands) are made from volcanic remains; and fringing reefs are found right along the coastline.

Coral reefs, which only grow at a maximum depth of around 150 feet, also grow very slowly, at an average rate of just two centimeters per year. This is because their biomes must maintain a temperature of 70 to 85º Fahrenheit. (Shallow water is more easily warmed by the sun.) Strangely, most coral reefs seem to grow on the eastern side of land masses, where the temperature is believed to be warmer than the western side. Stony coral groups are primarily responsible for building up reef structures.  Coral reefs grow upward from the sea floor as the polyps of new corals cement themselves to the skeletons of those below.

When I make Shark Week Chocolate Bark, I gather the following dry ingredients in a plastic bag or in a bowl:

120 gram(s) Wonderful Pistachios Roasted & Salted Shelled Pistachios

0.5 cup Dried cherries (tart montmorency)

12 pretzels Splits pretzels—break into pieces 1 inch long (I used the broken pieces in the bottom of the bag).

Also needed:

1 tbsp Vanilla extract —divided into 2 tsp and 1 tsp

12 tsp Coconut Sugar—divided into 8 tsp and 4 tsp

Then I weigh out 571 gram(s) GHIRARDELLI chocolate premium baking chips 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate — divided into 400 grams and 171 grams.

Take the larger amounts of chocolate baking chips first. Take chocolate and put into microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds and melt them in the microwave. Stir well. The first or larger amount may need a second 30 second cooking. The hot melted pieces will melt the unmelted ones. Stir after each heating. Bowl will be HOT! Don’t over cook the chocolate.

Remove & add vanilla 2 tsp. Stir. Add 8 tsp sugar. Stir.

Turn out onto parchment paper on cookie sheet. Spread chocolate with spatula. Spread nut and pretzel mix out over it evenly. Gently press it into chocolate.

Take remaining chocolate and put into same bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir well. The hot melted pieces will melt the unmelted ones. Don’t over cook the chocolate. Add 1 tsp vanilla and 3 tsp sugar. Stir well. Drizzle over the surface and spread out. It will almost cover the whole nut layer.

Put into icebox for for 30 to 45 minutes to harden. Afterward, cut into small pieces about 1” x 1 1/2”. It will keep in an airtight container for about two weeks.

Serving Size: Makes 36 pieces appropriately 1 inch by 1 1/2 inch.

Number of Servings: 36

As you can see, making chocolate bark with broken pretzels, pieces of dried fruit, and nuts comes together much like a coral reef: it gets all the various pieces cemented with a binding agent, which in the kitchen is chocolate. I don’t suggest you go out into the sea and nibble on a coral reef. It wouldn’t be good for the pearly whites.

The Benefits of Coral Reefs

Scientists have discovered that many parts of a coral reef can be harvested to make medications. According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, coral reefs are emerging as the medicine cabinets of the 21st century: “Coral reef plants and animals are important sources of new medicines being developed to treat cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, viruses, and other diseases.”

Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. There are often more types of fish living in a two-acre area of healthy coral reef than there are species of birds in all of North America!

Coral reefs help to improve the quality of the surrounding water. They do this by filtering out things floating in the ocean, which leads to cleaner water. In addition to protecting shorelines, coral reefs are immensely valuable to the fishing and tourism industries. According to the World Resources Institute, the destruction of one kilometer of coral reef equals a loss of between $137,000 to $1,200,000 over a 25-year period. And yet, they estimate some 60% of the world’s coral reefs are currently threatened by human activity.

Dark chocolate has its own benefits to humankind. Without it, some of us aren’t fit for civilized company! We don’t need a massive shark bite full of this calming food to bring us into a harmonious state. This is because chocolate has multiple chemicals that produce positive feelings in us. Phenylethylamine is sometimes called “the love drug”, because it arouses feelings similar to those that occur when one is in love. Another neurotransmitter, serotonin, is a mood-lifter, as well. One chemical that causes the release of serotonin into the brain is tryptophan, found in (wait for it!) chocolate!

If chocolate were a drug, we might need a prescription. Or we might find the law regulating how much chocolate we could have in our candies. As far as I’m concerned, the darker the better, but small children often prefer milk chocolate due to the greater sugar and milk content. Dark chocolate has probiotics and prebiotics, magnesium, iron, copper, and antioxidants. Even commercial dark chocolate bars will have large amounts of sugar, so not all dark chocolate is good for people with diabetes or weight issues. Look for 15 g carbohydrates per serving as a limit. Chocolate is a snack treat, not a meal.

A little afternoon pickmeup or as a side nibble with coffee and a friend, and your mood will be adjusted in no time. Then you can go back to swimming with the sharks and they can’t bite you, since you now have on your impervious dark chocolate shark repellent suit. Enjoy!

Joy and Peace,

Cornie

Nutrition Facts

Servings Per Recipe: 36

Serving Size: 1 serving

Amount Per Serving

Calories

127.9

Total Fat

8.1 g

Saturated Fat

3.9 g

Polyunsaturated Fat

0.4 g

Monounsaturated Fat

0.8 g

Cholesterol

0.0 mg

Sodium

65.2 mg

Potassium

39.4 mg

Total Carbohydrate

15.1 g

Dietary Fiber

1.6 g

Sugars

9.1 g

Protein

2.1 g

Vitamin A

2.2 %

Vitamin B-12

0.0 %

Vitamin B-6

2.2 %

Vitamin C

0.3 %

Vitamin D

0.0 %

Vitamin E

0.0 %

Calcium

0.4 %

Copper

2.2 %

Folate

0.0 %

Iron

7.1 %

Magnesium

0.9 %

Manganese

2.2 %

Niacin

0.0 %

Pantothenic Acid

0.0 %

Phosphorus

1.7 %

Riboflavin

0.0 %

Selenium

0.0 %

Thiamin

1.7 %

Zinc

Summer Bounty Bowl

Summer Bounty Bowl

Summer is in full bloom here in Arkansas in the middle of July. We now have local crops in our grocery stores, and the tomatoes are especially sweet. A few more days on the counter top in the kitchen and they are sugar bombs!

The summer squashes are also excellent. I like the zucchini and crook neck yellow squashes small, so they will cook on the al dente side. Nothing beats the taste of corn on the cob cooked in its own husk. I take off a few outer leaves, rinse the whole under cool water, and place it on a folded paper towel in the microwave. I set the timer for 3 1/2 minutes and go about my business of cooking dinner.

I took 4 ounces of 10% fat ground beef for my cast iron frying pan. As I stirred it on medium high heat, I looked for the container of leftovers with 1/2 cup each of zucchini and summer squash, 3 ounces of tomatoes, 1/4 onion and mixed Italian herbs. Once the meat was almost brown, I added this to the pan. It heated quickly. I was glad for this, since my grocery shopping jaunt had gone longer than I planned, due to a sudden rain shower.

Not long after, I heard the microwave sound. The paper towel is handy for grabbing that hot cob! It steams well inside its own husk. Once I peeled it back, I had a handle to hold the cob upright in the pan. I took a knife and cut the kernels off into the meat mixture. By the time I threw away the cob and stirred the whole pan about a few times, the dish was ready to plate (or bowl, in this case). I used 3/4 ounce cheese to top it, and emptied the remnants of a bag of shredded cheese. It was a very filling supper. Tasty, too, or my appetite just has a much sharper edge these days!

This was a 425 calorie meal, and took no longer than 15 minutes to prepare and cook, with 28 g carbohydrates, 20 g fat, and 33 g protein. It fits into a Mediterranean diet, and can fit into a low carbohydrate food plan. Paleo diets restrict corn because it’s a grain, and grains, as well as beans and legumes, are all excluded foods. Of course, paleo allows sweet potatoes, which have a higher carb content per cup (46 g) than corn (18 g), but no one ever said the paleo diet ever made scientific sense, anthropological sense, or medical sense.

In fact, our bodies are no longer the same as Stone Age people’s, just as our world has advanced beyond that era also. One aspect this diet fantasy does get correct is its insistence on whole or minimally processed foods. Of course, this is a characteristic of all healthy eating plans. The best plans, however, are the ones which have the least restrictions and the very best plans are the ones which you will stick to for a lifetime.

You heard right–lifetime compliance. We might fall off the wagon on a vacation or for a weekend, but not for longer. Especially if we have to watch our blood sugar closely. We know the damage from unrestrained highs or lows it can cause. I once hit a telephone pole at 5 mph while on vacation in a small town in North Carolina. I had an extra 10 days while my car was repaired before I got to come home, all because I didn’t eat before I decided to drive. I’m now trained. I was fortunate not to hit another vehicle or person. I am also much more sensitive to how I feel as my blood sugar drops, since I have the traumatic memory of the thud and crash connected to the swooning feeling of my body.

Only a few scientific studies have been organized to investigate the benefits of a paleo diet for diabetes, but their samples have been small and the time short. Not enough information exists to recommend the paleo diet for other than a short term weight loss diet. It’s not a lifetime healthy eating plan due to the elimination of dairy (calcium), and grains and legumes (nutrient dense fiber and vitamin sources).

With the hot weather outside, I’ll be making tuna salad, chicken salad, and cold, quick meals. Baking will have to wait for cooler weather! Friday might be 101F, with heat factors higher. Crunchy apples and raisins will likely appear in the meat salads. And yogurt, for somehow it tastes cooler than a cloying mayonnaise dressing.

Joy and peace to all,

Cornie

Good article on Stone Age humanity here:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-paleo-diet-half-baked-how-hunter-gatherer-really-eat/

Information on scientific studies here:

https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2016/205/4/paleo-diet-and-diabetes

Eagle Brand Coffee

Drinking Eagle Brand Coffee this morning. I wondered who to root for last night for the big football game. My head said Patriots, but my heart said Eagles. Tom Brady, my head said, is the best quarterback around. What do you know about this backup from the Eagles?

My heart answered, but you love the underdogs, the unappreciated, and the undervalued. Why not go with your heart, since it’s the seat of your feelings, and you trust those more than the logic of your mind. Anyway, it’s just a game, and it’ll be interesting any way it turns out.

Some of my friends gathered to “watch the game,” but as in any party, some are there for the food, some for the commercials, some for the fellowship, and a die hard few for the actual game. The evening is for all, and we don’t all have to do the same thing. We can wander in and out, tasting and experiencing it all, or we can stick with one thing.

We don’t have to be all alike, since we celebrate freedom in America. We don’t even have to think alike or root for the same teams. We forget how blessed we are when we let petty people and politics divide us. If we sought instead to find what unites us, we’d recover the common ground.

After all, those who seek to divide us do this for their best interests, and not for ours. If we separate into easily defined subgroups, they can market to us, they can count us, and they can court us. Perhaps if we began to look for the humanity of the others in our midst and walk a mile in their shoes, we would no longer think of them as “others ” but as brothers and sisters.

PUT THE FROZEN TURKEY IN THE ICEBOX NOW

Today is Sunday. Thursday is Thanksgiving. Yep, we’re on a marathon dash toward the great family feast. The matriarch of the family always hosts this grand dinner where I come from. When I was a child, we ate at two groaning tables, since both Mom and Dad had parents living in town. Later on, The dinner duties passed to our home as the older generation went to their eternal home.

I can remember Mother often underestimated the size of the turkey, or she was chasing us kids around in a vain attempt to organize our school, sport, hobby, and social lives. It never happened, since we all had too many activities and interests for all our ducks to ever get in a row. Adding a turkey to the row was most likely a lost cause. Most Wednesday mornings would find her flooding the still crystallized turkey with cold water in a freshly cleaned sink.

This water bath would go on until we went to school. I never knew what she did with it while I was away from home. I guess that belongs to the secret wisdom now lost to the Mysteries of the Past. I do know when I was a young wife, I used to call her every November to ask, “How do you cook the turkey in the paper sack again?”

Every year she would reply, “You ninny, I never cook the turkey in a paper bag! That’s toxic!” I’m certain I have the memory of her rubbing the bird down with oil, wrestling it into a giant grocery sack, and tying the opening with string. “You don’t? Well, how do I cook it again?” Yes, I did own a cookbook, but I’d rather talk to my Mother. Having the turkey cooked the traditional way, as my family always has cooked it, was important, especially if we weren’t together.

Today, as our generations are more separated, as takeout and convenience foods become more common, and as industrial and processed foods are more predominant in family food plans, many people may choose to eat out for Thanksgiving. For those who don’t have an older or more experienced cook in the family to call for help, be glad for those of us who have a calling to pass on this “secret, gnostic knowledge, known only to a few.”

If your frozen turkey is the average 15 pound bird, it should go into the refrigerator today. I used an online calculator to determine how long to defrost safely in the ice box. It takes 3 days and 18 hours.

Don’t defrost on the kitchen counter due to salmonella poisoning danger, since the outside will be warmer than the frozen interior. Likewise, trying to rush it under water won’t work, since the inside won’t get completely defrosted. Then it won’t fully cook, or the outer bird will get over cooked and dry.

The cross stitch above is perfect for Thanksgiving week. If you go to Facebook and look for my Cornie’s Kitchen Page, I have a Post for a list of things to do for Thanksgiving. After the rush is over, you can have your nervous breakdown, if you think you still deserve it. Or you might be so organized, you sail through it. My advice is to do half of what you think is important. Most people think the people and the togetherness make the best memories, not the baking, the cleaning, the polishing, or the froo-frooing. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and save room for pie!

Love, Cornie

WEIRD WEDNESDAY: Virtual Gastric Band Surgery

First, it's not surgery, but hypnosis! This is why it's "Virtual" and not actual or invasive, cutting into the body. How do I find out about these things, you ask? My Twitter account gets spammed with folks who follow me because I write about health. They think I might write glowing words about their product. They might think wrong.

First of all, actual surgery makes real changes in the body's hormone and metabolic activity. Virtual or hypnotic suggestion can't do this. It can only help you choose smaller portions or choose to exercise more. This is real science and you'd need to get your health care professional to explain it to you. The words leptin and grehlin are involved, plus your insulin. Hypnosis doesn't work on our chemicals, just on our desires and inclinations.

Second, hypnosis is the go to panacea or cure all for what ails you. It is the original snake oil, as it were! It is the potion with a notion and the vessel with the pestle that has the brew that is true. Whatever name we know it by, hypnosis is the amazing remedy for any complaint. Just imagine, with a few noninvasive sessions, our breasts could be larger! Hypnosis is a miracle working therapy! What shrinks our stomachs can also grow our breasts!

We can even get free lessons delivered to us through the mail, or maybe get them free on the internet today. Unlimited power for good (or ill) could be ours for nothing! If we look into the mirror, for what will we use this awesome power? I would hypnotize everyone i met into loving their neighbor, no matter their race, color, creed, nation of origin, religion, or sexual preference. We don't have to be hating each other on this small blue ball out in the vastness of the cosmos.

The person offering "Virtual Gastric Bypass Surgery" didn't put a price on any of her sessions, but other web sites did: $800. Actual surgery, which is proven and covered by insurance for medically necessary conditions, runs $5,000 and up. Personally, I'd rather spend $800 on a psychologist to get down to my emotional causes for overeating, but that's just me. A lot of us have fears, anxieties, depression, and other unmet needs we attempt to satisfy with food and drink. The rest of us want to be accepted and loved, and when we aren't, we eat and drink. This leads to less acceptance and more eating and drinking. It's a downward spiral.

Hypnosis claims to break this cycle. Getting a community of support will break the cycle too. Intervention with a counselor, accepting medical help with your depression, and getting started on a healthier food and exercise plan will also break the cycle. Accept you are loved.

Listen to my voice, you are worth loving–you are worth loving–you are worth loving–when I count to three, you'll wake up and all you'll feel is LOVE FOR YOUR SPECIAL SELF! 1–2–3! Wake Up!

Joy and Peace, Cornie

Coffee before Purpose

Welcome to the Antepenultimate Day of the Week , AKA Thursday!!

Thursday is the Third to last day of the week. Friday is the penultimate day, or the next to last day of the week. For some of my Kitchen friends, Friday is the Ultimate or Last day of your work week. Saturday, however, is the ultimate day of the week on the calendar.

Most people today plan their calendars around the work or school weeks, rather than around the calendar, which is set on the religious week. In the past, people only had Sundays for a rest day.

For those of us who keep busy but are happily retired, we find keeping our old daily schedules helps us stay regular in our sleep and exercise disciplines. We do our errands, volunteer activities, and other excitement in the same hours as our younger working friends, children, and family members.

If you’re working hard, or hardly ever working, you can easily lose track of the day’s of the week. A wild Monday can seem like three days long, so by 2 pm you’re screaming at your coworkers, “Is it Wednesday yet?” My daddy claimed he got both the morning and afternoon newspapers delivered to the home so he’d be sure to know what day it was. I’ve known folks to get their days and nights mixed up if they don’t have a reason to get up in the morning.

Always have a purpose in life worth getting out of bed in the morning, even if it’s just to make the best cup of coffee for the one person who needs it most–YOU! After that, you can deal with the other great purposes in life: cleaning up your little corner of the world, loving yourself and others more fully, and sharing your blessings with those who have less.

But first…COFFEE!